Ie viva meu Mestra, Part 9: Contra-Mestra Cristina

3 03 2008

Like with Mestra Suelly, I unfortunately wasn’t able to find very much biographical information on Contra-Mestra Cristina (unlike a lot of mestres or some regional mestras, angola mestras don’t seem very good at tooting their own horns ūüėõ ), but I will make up for it with something extra at the end!¬†

Contra-mestra Cristina of Grupo Capoeira Angola Ypiranga de PastinhaCristina Nascimento, or Contra-Mestra Cristina, first encountered capoeira in an unusual way: through a type of therapy she was undergoing called “Somatherapy”, part of which involved temporarily joining a capoeira angola class.¬† Soon enough, however, she realized that she didn’t need anything more than¬†the latter: “I finished the therapy and disligated myself completely from it, realizing it was in fact Capoeira which brought the profound transformation I was looking for in my life.”

Her first class took place in Rio de Janiero, in 1993 when she was 28 years old.¬† The future contra-mestra trained under GCAP’s Mestre Neco, then became a student of Mestre Man√Ķel the next year, whose oldest student she remains to this day.¬† Cristina helped Mestre Man√Ķel¬†in the founding of¬†Grupo Capoeira Angola Ypiranga de Pastinha (GCAYP), and in 2003 she received her contra-mestra’s corda.¬† Today, she teaches children and runs the Rio de Janiero branch of GCAYP.

Now, here it is: an in-depth interview with Contra-Mestra Cristina, from Chamada de Mandinga in 1999.¬† I hesitated about putting it up at first, because a large part of the second half made me feel the same way I feel when popular female celebrities give feminism a bad name and take us back a few decades (you’ll see), and some parts seem to focus more on Mestre Man√Ķel than on Contra-Mestra Cristina, but ultimately still wanted the interview to be available to you guys.¬† Click on the link to read it!
Interview with Contra-Mestra Cristina [pdf]


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Videos: Mestra Paulinha

29 02 2008

A while ago I wrote about Mestra Paulinha, co-founder and sociologist of Grupo Nzinga, but somehow left out videos of her playing.  The following angola videos feature her, and thank you to Steven for the links!

This is a really old video of Mestra Paulinha playing¬†Jo√£o Pequeno!¬† If you don’t want to wait through the introductory music, the actual playing starts at about 1:50.

This next video takes place in Costa Rica, with Mestra Paulinha playing capoeira in a roda with a FICA student.

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Video: Mestra Jararaca

13 02 2008

Here is a short clip of Mestra Jararaca playing, in an old video from 1997.  Thanks again to Shayna for the link!

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Ie viva meu Mestra, Part 8: Mestra Jararaca

13 02 2008

Mestra Jararaca, of Grupo Irm√£os G√™meos,¬†was the first mestra to come out of the Bahia capoeira angola scene.¬† Unfortunately, there is very little information about her available on the web, but thank you to Shayna M. for the one article I do have!¬† It was originally in French and I’ve translated it into English to post here.

October 2001 

Mestra Jararaca playing in the rodaThose who saw a serious child with a small smile playing in the rodas of Jo√£o Pequeno, in Santo Ant√īnio, never imagined that time would transform her into a master.¬† In truth, however, she is the first female mestre in capoeira angola in Bahia.¬† Valdelice Santos de Jesus, more often known as Mestra Jararaca, never saw herself becoming a capoeira master either, but¬†talent and destiny gave a helping hand to “the little girl who played like a man”.¬†

Today, the young woman of hardly 27 years¬†is preparing for a personal journey¬†and¬†takes care of her two sons (Luiz et Jos√© Carlos, 3 and 6 years respectively), in addition to participating in activities alongside Mestre Curio, student of the legendary Pastinha.¬† “I started¬†when I was¬†11 years old, hiding it from my father, who said that capoeira was something for boys,” remembers the mestra who, even while running the risk of being reprimanded, continued to frequent the roda with her older sister Ritinha, who is a student of Jo√£o Pequeno to this day.

To the question of how¬†she juggles family, teaching, and continuing to perfect her art, the young mestra smiles self-consciously, replying¬†that she never lacked determination in life, even¬†when her father interrupted one of her training sessions and forbade¬†his daughter¬†to continue them.¬† “It was in 1989, after my father died, that I returned to capoeira,” she said.¬†

During the period when she stayed far from rodas, Mestra Jararaca¬†came to know¬†another world and decided to educate herself.¬†¬†“I started¬†working very early, selling doughnuts, working as a nurse and as a cleaning lady.¬† One day in¬†one of the houses where I worked, I asked my boss—who was a¬†very respected saint-mother, known as¬†Ciandra M√£e—to read a newspaper article to me.¬† She told me then that those who didn’t know how to read were blind to the world.¬† I returned to my house,¬†and decided to no longer be¬†blind.” […]¬† Between courses at the Institut d’Education Isa√≠as Alves and work, Mestra Jararaca found time to play soccer with boys in the street of Santo Ant√īnio.

If capoeira hadn’t been there, who knows if soccer wouldn’t have had another valuable representative¬†equal to those of the past, masculinized generation?¬†¬†“My father said that I was capit√£o de areia¬†[captain of the arena] and that it wasn’t good for a young girl to live¬†freely with¬†guys, but I wasn’t worried about that,” declared the woman who,¬†when pregnant, never stopped participating in rodas.¬†

When she returned to capoeira, it wasn’t long before¬†Mestra Jararaca became a professor at Mestre Jo√£o Pequeno’s academy, working alongside great¬†mestres such as Curio and Moraes.¬† Potentially detrimental pride and jealousy were put to¬†a halt by arranging for the young capoeirista to train with Mestre Curio.¬† “I was already a professor, but when I entered my mestre’s academy, I needed to learn a new game,” she stated.¬†

It was this period that gave rise to¬†Valdelice’s evocative apelido, given by her new mentor.¬† According to Mestre Curi√≥, one simply needs to see¬†her playing capoeira to know why she is called Jararaca.¬† While training, the¬†young lady who moved like a cobra showed true distinction, eventually becoming a contra-mestra and, this past January, earning the title of mestra in a grand roda, as demanded by the angola tradition.

As for prejudice stemming from the fact she is a woman, Mestre Jararaca resolves that matter in the roda.¬† “I have no patience for people who think that being male, being strong, or having a bit of training makes them superior.¬† Capoeira is a school of each day, which lasts through all¬†life and serves men as well as¬†women,” concludes the first angola mestra from Brazil, who¬†holds in¬†honour the memory of the first female capoeiristas in Bahia.

-by Carmen Vasconcelos (translation by Joaninha)


Picture source:
Youtube – apologies for the low quality pixel count!

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Videos: Contra-Mestra Susy (Grupo Vadiac√£o, Capoeira Angola)

14 01 2008

There were too many to choose from!¬† I’ll put two up here, and they’re a little lengthy, but worth it.¬†

This first one¬†is Contra-Mestra Susy playing several of her students, and you can just feel the fun she’s having playing them, through the video.¬† (And props to the kid for his macaco, hehe.)¬† There are also some really interesting parts where you can almost (almost) forgive those people who mistake capoeira for¬†[purely] a dance. ūüėõ¬† Contra-Mestra Susy is the one in all white.

This second one has Contra-Mestra Susy playing someone more her level, and again,¬†they are obviously having fun¬†(another difference that’s starting to come up more between angola and regional to me; angola games seem to have a lot more playfulness at…well, play…than the average regional game).¬† Watch for a really cool¬†section near the end of the first half,¬†where it looks like they’re playing at intense regional speed, but with clearly angola movements.

And for those who still haven’t had enough, here’s a link to more!


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Ie viva meu Mestra, Part 7: Contra-Mestra Susy

12 01 2008

I’m starting to see an interesting pattern emerge from¬†researching all these¬†female mestres and contra-mestres.¬† Very¬†few of them seem to¬†have based their lives on¬†capoeira alone, as it appears with many males mestres, but have expanded¬†and merged it¬†with other major aspects of their lives or livelihoods as well.¬†¬†Mestra Edna Lima took the physical, sports science aspect of capoeira regional and turned it into fitness or physical education programs.¬† Mestras Janja and Paulinha focused on the sociological aspect of capoeira angola and through that, publish examining articles while working for change and progress in¬†related social issues.¬† Now, we have Contra-Mestra Susy, whose life and career highlights the potential of capoeira’s dance aspect.

Contra-mestra Susy of Grupo Vadiacao and Academica JangadaContra-Mestra Susy became the first European female in capoeira angola to earn her rank’s belt, in 1992, and she puts the “dance” in the dance-fight-game. In addition to nineteen years of capoeira, sixteen of which were¬†with Berlin’s Mestre Rosalvo (the first angoleiro to arrive in Europe), she studies and practices breakdancing as well as Afro-Brazilian dances associated with capoeira. Contra-Mestra Susy, or Susanne Oesterreicher, also performed in the dance piece Grupo Oito by Ricardo de Paula, with whom she has been working since 2005, and who choreographed her debut solo performance, “Identity”.¬† Ricardo de Paula is known for his work in attempting to combine contemporary dance and “contact improvisation”, inspired by capoeira.

Contra-Mestra Susy organized the First International Capoeira Angola Convention in Europe, in 1993, followed by a series of international meetings¬†that hosted guests such as Mestres Jo√£o Grande, Jo√£o Pequeno, Cobra Mansa, and Ciro.¬†¬†She then founded the Academia Jangada with Mestre Rosalvo in 1997, Europe’s first capoeira angola academy, for which¬†she¬†coordinated the First International Convention for Afro-Brazilian Dance in 1998.

In 1999, Contra-Mestra Susy founded Grupo Vadia√ß√£o, and since then has also been teaching the children’s capoeira group in Academia Jangada. She now holds workshops throughout Europe, Brazil, and the United States, where she attended the Fourth International Women’s Conference at the invitation of Mestre Cobra Mansa, in Seattle, 2002.


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Ie viva meu Mestra, Part 6: Mestra Paulinha

7 01 2008

Something interesting I noticed while researching Mestra Paulinha and Mestra Janja is that it was a lot easier to find information about recent or current things they had done/were doing, than it was to find things in the past that they had done (like a plain old biography!).¬† I found this really intriguing because¬†normally, for capoeira mestres/mestras, all you can find is their stock biography, plastered word-for-word all over the capoerista’s World Wide Web.¬† Furthermore, most of the information I did find was about projects or events they had done or were part of, rather than¬†accounts of¬†their capoeirista journeys leading up to them becoming¬†mestras and having their own group.¬†

I suspect this is connected to my last post about how capoeira (angola), at least for Mestras Paulinha and Janja, is inherently about bringing about change, and to say the least, they do more than just talk about how it is and actually show how it is.  I really admire how they have found a way to seamlessly merge career, academics, capoeira, and working for change all into one!

Mestra Paulinha of Grupo Nzinga CapoeiraMestra Paulinha, like Mestra Janja, is a veritable force to be reckoned with in the fields of social issues, academia, and (of course) capoeira. Last year marked her 25th in capoeira angola, and in that time she: earned a master’s and doctorate degree in Sociology (from the University of Bahia and University of S√£o Paulo, respectively); became a distinguished professor at the University of Bahia; gave lectures on various topics in various settings; published scholarly articles; and worked with Mestra Janja to focus attention on (anti-)racism, youth, higher education, identity, black culture, and women in capoeira.

Mestra Paulinha began training capoeira near the start of the 1980s, in GCAP (Grupo Capoeira Angola de Pelourinho), also with Mestres Moraes, Jo√£o Grande, and Cobra Mansa. She became a contra-mestra in 1990 and moved to S√£o Paulo in 1998, where she became a coordinator of INCAB (Instituto Nzinga de Estudos da Capoeira Angola) along with Mestra Janja and Mestre Poloca. In 2002, Mestra Paulinha moved to Salvador, and leads a core group of Grupo Nzinga Capoeira there. She is the grupo’s designated sociologist, and has maintained constant dialogue with other capoeira angola groups in order to further INCAB’s goals.

Editor’s note: INCAB is not, as was implied in Mestra Janja’s write-up, the same as Grupo Nzinga Capoeira. INCAB is a larger, umbrella organization that encompasses several smaller associations, such as Grupo Nzinga Capoeira and the Nzinga Berimbau Orchestra.

Sources: (with Google translation) (with Google translation)

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